In the space of 5 minutes, the plain canvas squares transformed into colorful quilt blocks. Dozens of youth were asked the question, "What is one way you commit to changing food systems in your community?" With yellow, green, brown and blue markers, with crayons, and bold Sharpies, they responded.
"I commit to growing healthy food," read one quilt piece. "I will eat healthy and help my neighborhood to eat healthy," read another. "I will support small farmers."
I watched this scene unfold during the Food, What?! annual youth day here at the Santa Cruz farm. That day, over 100 youth from points spanning Watsonville to Richmond led workshops, built skills in candle-making to terrariums, rolled out pizzas and pies from scratch, and shared food under the orchard trees. They brought themselves, their stories, and their expertise - from youth organizing, urban farming, health education, to the culinary arts. These small and vibrant pieces of cloth piece only hinted at the daily work youth were driving in their communities.
That day, I and the other adult farm apprentices were invited to join as collaborators. I think it's safe to say we learned as much from the youth as we shared. I was blown away by the youth commitment to positive change, and their recognition of the root issues of privilege and power when it comes to food that, frankly, many adults struggle to even acknowledge.
If there is anything that gives me hope, it is witnessing the leadership of young people. It's true that many things are broken in this world. It is also true that our next generations are part of the transformation so desperately needed, and many are already charting the course in both big and subtle ways.
More: there's an outpouring of powerful organizations focused around youth leadership and advancing food justice. Below is a handful, including some involved with this youth day.